A little window into my life: I was throwing clothes in a bag around 4 p.m., listening to the later innings of Friday’s Red Sox-Yankees game, when radio announcer Dave O’Brien interrupted Joe Castiglione with the news that Manny Ramirez had abruptly retired from baseball.
Quickly, the news followed that Major League baseball had informed Manny that there had been an issue with a drug sample from Spring Training. With that knowledge, and the understanding that a 100-game suspension loomed over the horizon, Manny dropped his bat and called it a career.
And so went my reaction to the news that one of the more devastating hitters of my lifetime was done playing the game.
Coming up with the Cleveland Indians, Ramirez was one of the game’s greatest hitters. He was a danger to all fields, hit for power, hit for average, and was unflappable. From 1995 to 2000 with Cleveland, he averaged a 1.017 OPS, a .319 average, 36 home runs, 314 total bases and 123 RBI. He was deadly.
And at the plate, it was more of the same in Boston. More home runs, a batting title in 2002, two World Series wins, wild adventures in left field, fake injuries, a traveling secretary thrown to the ground and, finally, an inglorious trade to Los Angeles, where adoring fans were soon replaced by annoyed and irritated ones.
His insane first two months there — 53 games, 17 home runs, .396 average, 1.232 OPS, 221 OPS+ — secured his Mannywood fame and propelled the Dodgers into the playoffs. But darkness was never far behind with Manny. In 2009, a 50-game steroid suspension was in the cards and his lackadaisical attitude towards left field and his teammates thinned patience. Halfway through the next season, he was benched, traded and irrelevant.
All the promise and talent and the good nature that could be on display were gradually flushed by laziness and avarice, and through two positive steroid tests, his savant-like hitting talent is forever in question. It’s all gone.
It’s only fitting, then, that Ramirez is forced to leave the game with so little dignity. As much of his career was a bang, he exits with a whimper.